Research

My philosophical interests are extremely varied and are unified by method as much as topic. If one thinks labels are useful, it makes sense to call me a hermeneutic philosopher. This does not mean, as some people suppose, that I am a relativist or an idealist. It means, rather, that I am interested in the “surplus of meaning” evident in all meaningful human experience and understanding, as well as the role played by interpretation, perspective, finitude, fallibility, and similar constraints in that experience and understanding.

It would also be accurate to say that my research and teaching tends to engage environmental philosophy, broadly construed. I say “broadly construed” because my interests include topics and themes that fall under what non-specialists often think of as environmental philosophy—the ethics of climate change, the ethical status of non-human animals, environmental justice and racism, the value of wilderness, and similar topics—but also include active work on other topics that are “environmental” in a somewhat looser sense, including embodiment, implacement, and the meaningfulness of our shared world.

From this hermeneutic perspective, my approach is consciously interdisciplinary. I am in regular dialogue with other forms of philosophy in what is loosely described as the “continental” tradition; however, I also work with thinkers trained in the analytic tradition (e.g., in my work on environmental philosophy and on virtue ethics), pragmatists (e.g., in some of my work in philosophy of religion), and scholars from other disciplines (e.g., ecology in my environmental work, psychology in some of my work on virtue and in my current work on joy, and poetry and literature in almost all of my work). I am or have been involved in a number of interdisciplinary research or teaching initiatives with biologists, ecologists, economists, theologians, and more.

I am the author or editor of six books, and the author of over forty articles and book chapters in addition to various and sundry non-academic essays and op-ed pieces. I’ve given many professional presentations, and many more informal talks in my community and further afield. My books, articles, and papers have touched on diverse issues including identity, otherness, nature, wilderness, toleration, forgiveness, hope, virtue, flourishing, God, prayer, place, narrative, embodiment, politics, hospitality, faith, love, and simplicity.

I’m currently working on two major projects in addition to various smaller pieces. The first addresses a range of issues relating to what I am calling an “earthy hermeneutics”: an approach to interpretation that moves beyond the “metaphor of the text” that has dominated philosophical hermeneutics to take seriously our carnal embodiment, the material world, more-than-human nature, and the way these realities shape our experience and understanding. The second project seeks to make an argument for various positive phenomena—joy, vitality, wonder, hope, and so forth—against the backdrop of a world that often seems to counsel, at least to continental philosophers, melancholy and despair.